Recycling and reusing are at the center of Canberra’s actions to strengthen the city’s circular economy.
1. Circular economy strategy
In a recently launched draft strategy to boost the circular economy, the Canberra government, also known as ACT government is focusing on five key focus areas: food and organics, the built environment, consumer goods, emerging and problematic waste streams, and creating space to showcase the territory’s commitment to the circular economy. As part of the strategy, the ACT government included initiatives to help residents reduce, reuse, and recycle – contributing to the government’s long-term goal of making Canberra an even more sustainable, prosperous, and circular economy city.
The ACT is on its way to being a thriving and equitable city that respects the limits of our planet.Chris Steel, Minister for Transport and City Services
We have some great examples of circular economy in the ACT – keeping valuable materials in use for as long as possible.— Chris Steel (@ChrisSteelMLA) October 27, 2022
The draft #CircularEconomy Strategy released today is about supporting industry and businesses innovation and local jobs.https://t.co/QPhArvj3vP. pic.twitter.com/dvGC6gyfMQ
According to Steel, the ACT’s draft Circular Economy Strategy, published in October, sets out the vision, strategic objectives, and focus areas to transform Canberra into a circular city.
2. Single-use plastics
In July, the government banned single-use plastic straws (with some specific exemptions), cotton buds with plastic sticks, and all oxo-degradable plastics. This follows the ban in 2021 of single-use plastic cutlery and drink stirrers, expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers, and plastic bags that are less than 35 microns in thickness.
The ACT Government is continuing to take action on single-use plastics. The next set of items proposed to be banned from 1 July 2023 includes plastic plates and bowls, plastic takeaway containers and heavyweight plastic bags.— ACT Government (@actgovernment) September 14, 2022
Learn more at: https://t.co/3xzKvIo4Mh pic.twitter.com/ANTef2eVJP
“Many event organisers took on the challenge from the ACT government to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics in 2022. Over 20 events such as Enlighten Festival, Groovin the Moo, Floriade, and Spilt Milk have made the transition to more sustainable alternatives,” said Steel, noting how business and the community had embraced these changes. Next year, the government might phase out single-use plastic takeaway containers, single-use plastic plates and bowls, and heavyweight plastic shopping bags.
3. Food waste
The strategy is also meant to reduce food waste and further improve. Canberra is using as a reference the positive results of the city compost collection pilot, launched in November 2021. The pilot, known as FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics) covered around 5,000 households in Belconnen, Bruce, Cook, and Macquarie. By turning household scraps, and food and garden waste into nutrient-rich compost, the scheme helps reduce methane gas generated from landfill.
“The bulky waste collection service continued to be valuable for Canberra residents and the community,” Steel said. “We saw a 39% recovery rate, with items such as furniture provided to people in need through charities like GIVIT, the Salvation Army, and Vinnies.” However, plans for a four-year rollout of the FOGO scheme have been abandoned by the ACT government, according to local media.
The ACT Government also supported recycling initiatives such as Soft Landing, a national social enterprise that collects mattresses for recycling. Up to 75% of all mattress components are recycled, according to Steel. In 2021-22, the government received 43,742 mattresses, which were broken down, separated into their different components, and upcycled.
The ACT Container Deposit Scheme continued to make an impact with ACT residents.Chris Steel, Minister for Transport and City Services
More than 57 million containers were redeemed through the network in 2021 and 2022 — an increase of 1.35 million containers from 2020-21. During the same period, the redemption rate was a record 75% — meaning three out of four drinks containers sold made their way into the scheme. Since the scheme began in June 2018, more than 366 million containers have been recycled. Next year, the government intends to expand the scheme to include wine bottles, spirit bottles, and cordial bottles.
Canberra communities and businesses are also producing initiatives such as repair cafes, a tool library, Green Caffeen reusable cups, and second-hand markets. “We want to support industry and businesses who are taking advantage of the opportunities that come from being a sustainable city, supporting innovation and create good local jobs,” said Steel.